Television ad buyers and sellers are starting to feel each other out on how
each camp feels about the upfront sales market coming up after the networks
announce their new schedules in June.
John Muszynski, who heads national TV buying at Chicago-based Starcom Media
Services, told investors and analysts on a Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. conference call Friday
that he thinks upfront spending will be flat this year.
"I don't think the market is as strong as a lot of other people are
indicating they think it is," he said. "There are some significant signs of
recovery, but I don't think we've recovered yet."
The scatter market is very misleading, Muszynski said, and it is not a true
indicator of things to come because supply is more suppressed than he's
ever seen it before due to the make-good loads ABC and Fox are carrying.
That's basically made it a two-network scatter market for NBC and CBS.
Muszynski said buyers have to try to predict which network or networks will
be best positioned nine to 12 months from now when making upfront buys in June.
It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it can be done, he added. "We
are buying for the future."
He also said he has not figured out yet where the general network mind-set is
in terms of pricing for the upfront. But he's hoping that the bid-ask gap isn't as
wide as it was last year or it could be another long drawn-out market, like last
year, when buyers ultimately prevailed.